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On 17 November, representatives of the thirty-five shortlisted projects nominated for the 2022 European Social Services Awards (ESSA) gathered in Málaga, Spain for the Ceremony announcing the winners of this year’s edition.  Over eighty social services teams and organisations, subsequently whittled down to the finalists by the 2022 ESSA Selection Panel, first applied in July in the hope of being recognised as making crucial innovations to social care.

“That there can only be one award given does not diminish the fact that all the shortlisted projects here tonight are winners in their own right,” said Alfonso Lara-Montero, Chief Executive Officer at the European Social Network, opening the Ceremony with co-host Jane Dudman, freelance journalist.

Social Innovation theme

Ms Dudman highlighted that “social services are facing massive challenges such as greying populations, increased inequality, climate change, and recently the arrival of refugees and the cost-of-living crisis as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.” Therefore, social services need to look at what tools can help them tackle these difficult times.

Keynote speaker, Lucia Dal Negro, CEO of De-LAB, underlined   the importance of the theme of this year’s Awards, Innovation for Social Change, and the need to “innovate in social services to help our communities thrive.  “Social services are ideally placed to implement tangible approaches to tackling rising inequality in monetary-asset-driven societies, proving that this impact is not some niche,” she added. The European Social Services Awards (ESSA) strive to highlight these practices to the wider world.

Highlighting key role of cities

For the first time, the Ceremony, hosted by the City of Málaga, took place outside Brussels, bringing the Awards closer to the heart of where many of the challenges social services face are directly felt. As the Mayor of Málaga, Francisco de la Torre Prados said in his welcome words:

“Cities play a central role in addressing today’s challenges… and we need to share their practices between us.”

To support this goal, the headline category of the Awards, the Excellence Award, sought to recognise the city that rose to a challenge in the most innovative manner. At the Ceremony, the city of Zagreb was  also announced as the host of next year’s Awards. 

Continuing the conversation around innovation

A key aspect of innovation is looking at ways to digitalise and utilise technology to improve social services’ delivery and quality. The European Social Services Conference (ESSC) will be the forum for people involved in social services to share policy, practice and research on innovation in social services through technology; IT developments for social inclusion, accessibility, or autonomy; organisational and workforce improvements, or data management for decision-making.

Proposals for contributions to the programme in the form of case studies, workshops, panel discussions and project forums were open till 29 November. Read more about the theme here.

Meet the 2022 winners: 

Service Delivery

The Access Hub

Simon Community Scotland, United Kingdom

A multiagency hub developed in Glasgow brings together a wide range of services under one roof to support people experiencing homelessness so that they receive the personalised integrated services they need for their social inclusion. People using the service are involved in the design and delivery and the facility is driven by a sense of care, compassion and personal value.

Workforce Support

Programme for Educational Innovation

Department of Education of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Spain

The quality of an educational system depends largely on the quality of its teachers. This project transforms the internship period for future teachers, turning it into a process in which the entire educational centre is involved and training teachers in reflective practice and constructive support skills, including  personalised and relevant professional learning opportunities.

Collaborative Practice

Multidisciplinary Group for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Pomurje Social Work Centre and Association of Centres for Social Work, Slovenia

The Group connects frontline responders in cases of domestic violence from social, legal, educational, medical and other public agencies to train them on how to respond together to support and help victims of violence and raise awareness about domestic violence. This mutual cooperation and interweaving of different profiles and professions in the response to domestic violence are unique in Slovenia.

Research Project

DocRoom: Bringing Health Services Closer to Homeless People

Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, HungaryDocRoom is an evidence-based research project that measures the effects of digital health tools on the care of homeless people. The project evaluated online visits that were made available in community shelters in Budapest, Hungary. The programme was found to have significantly improved care continuity and the use of relevant tools improving people’s satisfaction.

Technology Tool

Effective Preventative Care Supported by Artificial Intelligence

City of Helsingborg, Sweden

An innovative AI model that proactively identifies users at high risk of extensive future needs and individuals with the highest potential for rehabilitation. By forecasting the needs, they can implement targeted interventions and make a more effective use of available resources.

Excellence Award: Cities Innovation for Social Change

Gaming Club

Gothenburg City Council, Sweden

This project addresses a challenge in Gothenburg that children with neuropsychiatric are not going to school nor participating in social activities, and instead, are staying at home playing computer games. Gaming Club offers a space in the community for these young people to play games together with their peers, and in this way reintegrate them back into school and society.

Read more detailed summaries from the winners and all shortlisted on the ESSA website. To connect with any project, contact us at